ChaCha As a Common Project

I looked up again the report from the interview of the president where he said he is open to charter change. Below are the direct quotes from the president cited in the report. 

"Bago nito, bago nangyari lahat ng ito, sarado....aminado ako."

"Pero ngayon, napapag-isip ako talaga... yung tinatawag na judicial reach."

"And in fact in the 1987 Charter's martial law provision, any citizen may petition the SC as to the factual basis for the imposition of martial law," "Ang problema lang ngayon, may nagtatanong, sobra ba?" 

"Yung kongreso, executive, kumilos kayo, pero anytime, puede namin kayong kastiguhin...parang masyadong madalas ginagamit.

"Ngayon, yung balance between the three branches, tila nawala."

"Nung pinasukan ko ito, ang tanda ko one term of six years...Ngayon, after having said that, syempre ang mga boss ko, kelangan kong pakinggan 'yon." 

"Hindi naman ibig automatic na hahabol pa ako na magkaroon pa ako ng dagdag dito, 'no?" 

"How do we ensure the reforms we began will become permanent?" 

Seriously Being Considered

Read and re-read it. 

Are those words by someone making a prank? Was that a top-of-the-head response? 

I do not think so. 

I am hearing a person who is seriously thinking about Charter Change (ChaCha) as a course of action that corrects what he is seeing as an emerging flaw in the system. It sounds to me those ideas have been considered even before it was raised in the interview.

Let it be made clear that ChaCha is a legal/ constitutional course of action too. Let it also be said that for decades now, there are those who have been studying and voicing out the need for ChaCha to make governance more effective and responsive and to deepen democracy. Some of them are members of the Cabinet. Some of the supporters of PNoy in 2010 from civil society have put ChaCha as their agenda.

Is it too shocking to think that the president himself would get to realize the same constraints and flaws in the system that the proponents of ChaCha have been pointing out? Is it too shocking to think that he wants to do something about these flaws and constraints too?

Re-Election Question 

The realpolitik of it: is he pushing for this only to seek re-election? 

Sure, that's a possible motivation and if you do your political math, it might actually be the better risk to take at the moment given the candidate configurations in 2016.

But that's so far way ahead of the process and to get there, we will have to first accomplish many sub-processes: 

  • study and prepare proposals on what will be changed in the Charter, 
  • choose the mode (Constituent Assembly, Constitutional Convention or People's Initiative), 
  • go through the formal process following the mode selected, and 
  • ratification. 

Good thing that we have had work done on the preparatory processes of this already. That will cut the time needed.

Only after this - if term limit is in fact one of the changes made - that the question who can and will run would be answered. Provided the president decides to run, he will again have to campaign and win the elections. 

These processes are all legal. These are all part of the democratic process. It is provided in our legal framework. 

As a people, we can and should be able to undertake this process if we think this is what's best for the country. 

Questions to Ask

So the questions are - will ChaCha be good for the country? Is this the call of our time? Are the reasons for ChaCha raised by the president and other proponents valid?

The realpolitik, the electoral, who-will-hold-the-power questions come later. We will get there. 

For now, let's think of the substantive/ institutional reform questions at hand that in fact should unite us into a common project, a common democratic process of change. 

Nation-Building Project

ChaCha need not be divisive. There will be differences in the position on the specific changes to be introduced. But the process, if we stay true to it and focus on the common good concerns, will make us think of the same thing: what is good for the country, what system and institutions would best serve the Filipinos? 

Again, the 1987 Constitution has served its purpose of bringing back the procedures of democracy. It is showing its limit in making governance work to address substantive problems, such as poverty and political monopoly. We are now experiencing the symptoms and effects of its constraints and flaws. We will be unable to fully take off and see substantative and lasting changes if we do not correct the flaws and constraints in our system.

We have changed as a nation. We face new challenges as a people. Let us put up a legal framework that will strengthen us and enable us to face the challenges of today as a new people ready to do better. 

Let ChaCha be our common nation-building project.